Performing Without Pain: Windsor therapist helps musicians avoid chronic injuries that once made her sister stop playing | MyWindsorNow.com

Performing Without Pain: Windsor therapist helps musicians avoid chronic injuries that once made her sister stop playing

Dan England
dengland@greeleytribune.com

Anne Green was just starting to enter the world of physical therapy when her sister was just starting to revive her career as a pianist. Once again, Green was inspired by her sister.

Janet Ashley Spencer was a successful musician, playing with orchestras and as a church organist. She also was Green's first teacher. Green is 15 years younger than her sister and began playing at age 4, thanks to Spencer's patient instruction.

Spencer, however, had to quit because she developed tendonitis in her elbow. It was so painful, she stopped playing for 11 years and went into sales. When Spencer wanted to play again, in 1983, Green was in college.

Green loved music — she almost became a musician — but she wanted to go into physical therapy, in part to help her sister play professionally once again. She became a therapist in 1986, and along the way, she was indeed able to help her sister avoid the pain that crippled her career.

“I care about people who can make beautiful music, and I want to give back to them.

— Anne Green, physical therapist

Now Green of Fort Collins hopes to help many other musicians play pain-free their whole lives. She works as a therapist for Colorado In Motion. Though the business has four locations, she operates primarily out of the Windsor clinic.

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Green specializes in musicians, which is unusual in the therapy world, but Green understands them best. She still is a piano player. She got a certificate in piano performance from the Zion Conservatory of Music, which required a recital among other things, and she still teaches piano, as well.

Playing an instrument is a physical job, with repetitive motions, and it's a demanding one, as well. Many musicians practice for hours every day, and yet it's only recently they've started to consider what all that practicing is doing to their bodies. They should consider themselves athletes, Green said, and care for their bodies the same way.

There is more awareness now. Some research is out there to help musicians avoid injury, the kind of science that's been around for decades for athletes or office professionals, gathered and promoted by places such as the Performance Arts Medicine Association.

When Green teaches piano, she warns her students they may feel an occasional, corrective touch from her to fix their posture, and she encourages them to relax, breathe or sit a certain way to dispel the stress that builds during practice or a performance.

It was a tough decision to forgo music for therapy as a career, but she believes she made the right choice.

"I care about people who can make beautiful music," she said, "and I want to give back to them."

Green has patients who aren't musicians, and many of the concepts are the same. Adjustments can help, as well as exercises, and being aware of their posture can make a big difference.

"Pain is a signal to come in the door and talk to me," she said.

But she also understands musicians consider their work an art form, and that means they may hold their instrument a certain way or play it a way that may be unconventional. That may even give them a sound that makes them successful: Look at the way Eddie Van Halen uses finger tapping to get his unique sound. She doesn't want to mess with that too much.

But she does want to prevent injuries. She doesn't want to see musicians sidelined for weeks, let alone years, as happened to her sister.

The visits don't have to be permanent either. Many times a few can help take care of the problem, even if her patients need to exercise the rest of their lives. They can always come back to her when they need her again.

"Wellness is a long-term thing," Green said.

She can relate to musicians more. She is one herself. She played the other day, on the piano in her study, relishing in the music that came from her fingertips. And then, when she was done, she leaned back, took a deep breath and relaxed.

— Staff writer Dan England is The Tribune's Features Editor. His column runs on Tuesday. If you have an idea for a column, call (970) 392-4418 or email dengland@greeleytribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanEngland.

To go

You can contact Anne Green at Colorado In Motion through her e-mail address at Anne@ColoradoInMotion.com.

She works primarily out of the Windsor office at 1455 Main St., Suite 160, in downtown Windsor. That number is (970) 674-9675, or go to https://coloradoinmotion.com/windsor-office for more information.

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